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What should Christians read?

Yes, people. It's a real book.

Yes, people. It’s a real book.

Last Saturday I was scrolling through the latest Facebook fodder and came across this post from Christian writer Tricia Goyer’s timeline:

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And while the majority of the responses (and there were several) were not in favor of limiting themselves to only Christian Fiction, I was surprised that there were some who felt that Christians should not read fiction that was outside the genre of “Christian”, arguing that we should not expose ourselves to the bad language, sex and violence so often found in mainstream works of fiction. Although to be fair, most stated that this was a personal conviction not a condemnation of those who read secular work.

But still…

It bugs me.

Maybe it shouldn’t. It’s certainly none of my business what people choose to read or not read, but if art imitates life–and I believe that good art mirrors real life–then much of what passes the muster of “appropriate” Christian Fiction is a poor imitation of what makes a good story. It’s a white-washed version of realistic prose. There are words that cannot be used, acts of violence and depravity that can only be suggestively danced around so as not to offend a Christian audience.

And that bugs me…

Writing for a Christian audience. So much so that I put in my snarky two cents:

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Do you know what the hottest thing in Christian Fiction is right now?

Amish Fiction.

Written by people who are not Amish.

I’ve struggled to understand why this is so popular, but I think I’m beginning to understand. Just as teenage vampire romance novels are an escape from the banality of everyday life, Amish life (or at least the idealistic version of it) is an escape from an increasingly crude and immoral one. And I suppose both have entertainment value, but neither imitate real life. Pre-teen Twilight audiences are spoon-fed sexuality disguised as taboo vampire romance and Amish fiction audiences are spoon-fed an ideal, profanity-free communities where bad things may happen, but really bad things never happen to good Christian folks.

But that’s not real and that’s not real redemption.

Many of you know that I’m a big fan of Stephen King. There are those who refuse to read his work because he uses, among other things, profanity. I once read a discussion board where several posters maintained that his use of cuss words is simply laziness. That his books could be every bit as compelling if he left out the profanity.

To them I say, bullshit.

Take this passage from The Stand concerning a young deaf mute’s encounter at an orphanage:

He stopped wanting to communicate, and when that happened the thinking process itself began to rust and disintegrate. He began to wander from place to place vacantly, looking at the nameless things that filled the world. He watched groups of children in the play yard move their lips, raise and lower their teeth like white drawbridges, dance their tongues in the ritual mating of speech. He sometimes found himself looking at a single cloud for as long as an hour at a time.

Then Rudy had come. A big man with scars on his face and a bald head. Six feet, five inches tall, might as well have been twenty to runty Nick Andros. They met for the first time in a basement room where there was a table, six or seven chairs, and a TV that only worked when it felt like it. Rudy squatted, putting his eyes on approximately the same level as Nick’s. Then he took his huge, scarred hands and put them over his mouth, his ears.

I am a deaf-mute.

Nick turned his face sullenly away: Who gives a fuck?

Rudy slapped him.

Nick fell down. His mouth opened and silent tears began to leak from his eyes. He didn’t want to be here with this scarred troll this bald boogey. He was no deaf-mute, it was a cruel joke.

Rudy pulled him gently to his feet and led him to the table. A blank sheet of paper was there. Rudy pointed at it, then at Nick. Nick stared sullenly at the paper and then at the bald man. He shook his head. Rudy nodded and pointed at the empty paper again. He produced a pencil and handed it to Nick. Nick put it down as if it were hot. He shook his head. Rudy pointed at the pencil, then at Nick, then at the paper. Nick shook his head. Rudy slapped him again.

More silent tears. The scarred face looking at him with nothing but deadly patience. Rudy pointed at the paper again. At the pencil. At Nick.

Nick grasped the pencil in his fist. He wrote the four words that he knew, calling them forth from the cobwebby, rusting mechanism that was in his thinking brain. He wrote:

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Then he broke the pencil in half and looked sullenly and defiantly at Rudy. But Rudy was smiling. Suddenly he reached across the table and held Nick’s head steady between his hard, callused palms. His hands were warm, gentle. Nick could not remember the last time he had been touched with such love. His mother had touched him like that.

Rudy removed his his hands from Nick’s face. He picked up the half of the pencil with the point on it. He turned the paper over to the blank side. He tapped the empty white space with the tip of the pencil, and then tapped Nick. He did it again. And again. And again. And finally Nick understood.

You are this blank page.

Nick began to cry.

Tell me how that could have been written as powerfully without the use of profanity.

The difference between that passage and one written without profanity is the difference between hitting a sacrifice fly with one out in the bottom of the ninth to win by a run and hitting a grand slam with two outs and a full count in that same inning.

The end results may be the same, but the latter is infinitely more memorable.


I’m not saying that Christians shouldn’t read Christian Fiction. I happen to know that some of it is excellent. All I’m suggesting is that we don’t limit ourselves to it thinking the hand of God only moves the pens of those who call him Father. Rather than looking for the devil under every secular rock, maybe we should open our mind’s eye to see that God is at work in the most unexpected places and even through those who don’t know Him.

Beautiful things

image from, photo by Charles Krupa, AP

image from, photo by Charles Krupa, AP

While the investigation into the bombings at this year’s Boston Marathon is still in its early stages, one thing is clear: This was by definition, a terrorist attack. We just don’t know the who or the why yet.

What is also clear is that in the midst of violence and mayhem, compassion, heroism and love outshine hatred. The image of first responders running towards the explosions rather than away from them will always stay with me. Examples of kindness abound in reaction to the tragedy. From thousands of runners rushing to local hospitals to donate blood for the injured to people offering up beds and couches in their own homes, to local restaurants telling patrons they only need pay if they could. So many stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

The iconic image of Carlos Arredondo depicts one example of many acts of heroism caught on film.

Carlos Arredondo is no stranger to tragedy. In 2004, Arredondo’s son, Marine Lance Cpl. Alexander S. Arredondo, died in battle in Najaf, Iraq. When Marines arrived on his 44th birthday to deliver the news, Arredondo climbed into the Marine van with a torch and a can of gasoline from his garage. He proceeded to douse the van and set it on fire, severely burning himself in the process.

In 2007, the New York Times wrote a story of a distraught man in a makeshift mobile memorial in the back of his pickup. There was a coffin containing his son’s favorite possessions and photos of his son ranging from those depicting a happy teenager to a fully outfitted battlefield warrior to a body in a coffin.

His grieving brought him national attention. In that same year, Arredondo was publicly beaten during an anti-war demonstration in Washington.

Just before Christmas, 2011, Carlos’ other son, Brian, 24, took his own life as U.S. troops were withdrawing from the war that left his brother dead.

“We are broken people”, Carlos Arredondo told the Boston Herald.

image from via Getty Images

image from via Getty Images

But broken, damaged people aren’t the same as broken, damaged things. Broken things are tossed aside, no longer useful or desirable. With broken people, their own pain often fuels their compassion for others who are broken. Even broken and bloodied.



We have three sets of dishes in our house: the set I registered for before I got married, a Tuscan looking stoneware set, and the set we use every day, Correlle.

We use the fine china once or twice a year, if that. It spends most of the time in a cherry hutch my mother gave me. The set is complete and undamaged save one dinner plate my husband dropped a couple of years ago.

The stoneware set is used more often–if we have company over for dinner. I also use separate pieces from the set to serve appetizers on when we have casual get togethers. This set is complete and undamaged.

The Correlle set we use every day, for each meal–bowls for cereal, plates for lunch and dinner. I even use the platters to defrost big stuff in the microwave. That set? Lots of pieces missing from that one.

When we lose one of those pieces to slippery or careless hands, you wouldn’t think it would be a big loss. I can go to Walmart and replace whatever happens to break. It’s common and inexpensive, easily accessible and replaceable. It’s also the hardest working set of dishes in the house. Correlle Ware is lightweight and stands up to daily use and abuse. I will readily admit I don’t give these dishes a second thought. They are there for me every day. Not terribly attractive or impressive, but a constant in our daily lives.

I mentioned before that you wouldn’t  think losing one of these pieces would be a big deal, but that’s not the case. It’s a very big deal. Because, as anyone who has tile floors and Correlle Ware can attest to, they don’t just break when they’re dropped–they shatter into pieces. These tiny pieces travel great distances across the expanse of the tile floor. When a cup, bowl or plate is dropped, everyone is cleared out of the kitchen. If I’m not wearing shoes, I get a pair on immediately. Those tiny slivers cut through skin like tiny daggers.

The dog’s bowls are emptied and washed, the entire floor is first swept then vacuumed. But despite the effort made to assure all the pieces are swept up and thrown away, there have been instances where a bare foot finds a tiny shard that was missed–sometimes days later. They seem to get into the dark crevices and go undetected.

I don’t really understand why anyone would design dishes that are made for regular use and abuse, and yet be susceptible to complete and utter destruction when dropped by a careless hand. So strong and resilient, and yet so fragile.

Have you ever felt like a Correlle dish? Willing to weather daily use and abuse, being taken for  granted day after day, only to shatter into a million pieces when carelessly dropped, swept up and discarded? If this sounds like an object lesson for your life–past or present–may I tell you something?

You need to know that there are probably hidden shards hiding in the dark places, seemingly undetected, that can and will hurt those who get close to you. But more importantly: You are not a cheap dish. You are not common or inexpensive, easily accessible or replaceable.

You are a beautiful piece of fine pottery, fearfully and wonderfully made.

And you may have been broken or even shattered, but the Master Potter, the One who lovingly formed you, desires to gather up all the pieces of your shattered self and put you back together. Not as good as new, but infinitely better.

Because you are His masterpiece.

This post is part of the One Word at a Time Blog Carnival: Broken, hosted by my friend . Please visit his site for a list of many wonderful posts on this topic.

The picture inside the picture (Repost)

How to Draw a Picture (Part 9)
(Excerpt from Duma Key by Stephen King)

Look for the picture inside the picture. It’s not always easy to see, but it’s always there. And if you miss it, you can miss the world.

This is the ninth installment of my adventure into serious writing. It’s still not something that I’m completely comfortable with. As a matter of fact, I could never imagine it was anything I would even consider. But to quote one of my favorite lines from the book this series is based upon,

“God always punishes us for the things we can’t imagine.”

And while the biblical implications of that statement are at odds with what I believe to be the Truth, still – it makes me pause.

When I started this silly little blog in April of 2008, it never dawned on me that I would be so inspired by so many talented, amazing people. Among those near the top of that list would be Jeanne Damoff.

I described Jeanne a couple of weeks ago in the following tweet: “Follow @jeannedamoff. She’s like me, only classy.”

Okay, so maybe she’s not so much like me. She holds degrees in social work, sociology, English, and secondary education. Wife to George, mother to Jacob, Grace and Luke. From her bio: “Jeanne is a published writer, a professional choreographer, a musician, and a speaker. She loves to laugh and gives points to anyone who makes her laugh out loud. These points are very valuable. Everyone should strive to earn them, starting now.” As impressed as I was with her writing thus far, I was completely unprepared for the book she sent me.

When I read the quote from Duma Key that inspires these posts, I knew I had to share a bit of her story. So many of us often miss the picture inside the picture, but if we look for it, there is astounding beauty to be found. Jacob Damoff is a shining example of such beauty. Again, here’s Jeanne in her own words:

In May 1996, the world ended. We traded “Happily Ever After” for brokenness and sorrow. My book, Parting the Waters: Finding Beauty in Brokenness , tells the story of Jacob’s drowning accident and our family’s subsequent journey through a valley of lost dreams and into a deeper understanding of God’s sovereignty. As our eyes adjusted to the shadows, the beauty of God’s plan came into focus. A pebble is dropped into a pond. Ripples are set in motion. Ever widening, they accomplish eternal purposes visible to those who choose to see.

I literally have a stack of books four feet high that are waiting patiently to be read. But once I picked up Jeanne’s book, I could not put it down. If you’ve ever struggled to understand why bad things happen to good people and can’t seem to find the silver lining in the clouds of life, I would highly recommend this book.

And you know I know a good book when I read one, right?

Walk by Faith

Do you know the story behind this song? It goes something like this:
(by Kim Jones from

Jeremy Camp was leading worship all over Southern California. It was at one of those shows that he met his future wife. He was playing for a small Bible study group in the San Diego area where he was living when he noticed her. “I started to play a worship song and she raised her hands high above her head to praise God,” Jeremy recalls. “I was in awe of this woman who obviously loved Jesus so much.”

They spent that summer getting to know each other better, but after four months of dating, Melissa wanted to break up. She knew that God was preparing her for something and needed time with Him. Jeremy was heart broken, but he threw himself into his work and his ministry thrived. Before long, he was called to the see Melissa, then 20, who had just been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. “I walked into the hospital and she was just beaming,” Jeremy recalls. “You could tell she wasn’t bummed out. She was just trusting the Lord. It was amazing.”

Five months later they married but during their honeymoon, she started having stomach problems. Doctor’s said she only had months to live.On Feb. 5, 2001, Melissa went to be with the Lord. As she took her last breath, Jeremy and her family began worshipping God, singing the same songs they had played during her hospital stays. “I didn’t want to do it,” he says, “but I knew I was learning something about obedience.” Melissa’s wish was for her death to impact others for Christ – and it is.

Fast forward a few years and you’ll find Jeremy happily married with two beautiful daughters, nine No. 1 back to back radio hits under his belt and numerous awards.

He’s on top, but this is a man who has been to the bottom … and allowed God to bring him back up.

Will I believe you when you say
Your hand will guide my every way
Will I receive the words You say
Every moment of every day

Well I will walk by faith
Even when I cannot see
because this broken road
Prepares Your will for me

Help me to RID my endless fears
You’ve been so faithful for all my years
With the one breath You make me new
Your grace covers all I do

yeah, yeah , yeah, yeah, ya

well i will walk by faith
even when i cannot see
because this broken road
prepares your will for me

Well I’m broken- but I still see Your face
Well You’ve spoken- pouring Your words of grace

Well I will walk by faith
Even when I cannot see
Well because this broken road
Prepares Your will for me
Well I will walk by faith
Even when I cannot see
Well because this broken road
Prepares Your will for me

Hallelujah, hallelu

I will walk by faith, I will walk by faith,
I will walk by faith
I will walk by faith, I will walk by faith,
I will walk by faith
I will walk by faith, I will walk by faith,
I will walk by faith
I will walk by faith
I will walk,I will walk
I will walk, I will walk by faith

God, help me to walk by faith on this broken road.